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Hitman: Agent 47 movie review

Movie Rating:

Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) is a genetically-enhanced assassin once from a secret genetic program that has now been taken over by a new organization known as Syndicate International, whose chairman Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann) is bent on creating a new breed of killing machines. The only way he can achieve that goal is by either finding the original creator of the “Agents”, Dr. Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds), and forcing the information out of him, or extracting the info from Litvenko’s daughter Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware) who holds the key to his experiments in her DNA.

While Katia is on a quest to find her long-lost father, Agent 47 and rival agent John Smith (Zachary Quinto), a mercenary for Le Clerq, fight to track her down first.

It’s never a good sign for a film when its best performance comes from the Audi.

Hitman: Agent 47 is a reboot of a failed franchise adaptation from the folks over at 20th Century Fox.

That sounds awfully familiar.

Based on the popular video game franchise, Hitman: Agent 47 is yet another unfortunate reminder of why video game adaptations suck. You know they must be bad when the only watchable one, 1995’s Mortal Kombat, came courtesy of crap-tastic film auteur Paul W. S. Anderson. Comic book, novel, fairy tale, biopic – hell, even Lego toy adaptations have all passed the test, so just why is it that video games are so damn hard to translate to the screen? I myself am not a gamer, but I’d like to think in a perfect world video game films shouldn’t be that hard to make entertaining, particularly one with a cast that includes Rupert Friend (Showtime’s Homeland), Zachary Quinto (the Star Trek reboots, FX’s American Horror Story), Hannah Ware (Starz’s Boss) and Ciaran Hinds (Road to Perdition, Munich, There Will Be Blood).

What are such capable actors doing in this film? Maybe it was the free trips to Germany and Singapore? Judging from their lackluster performances, that must’ve been all they were interested in.

Unlike the similarly-themed American Ultra it shares its opening weekend with, Hitman can brag that its not a tonal, narrative mess. This picks a tone for its story and earnestly sticks with it ’til the end (though, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. called to say it wants its “beautiful daughter searching for her long-lost scientist father who’s the target of two rival agents” plotline back). That said, American Ultra can fire back that it at least isn’t the tedious bore this is.

Here’s what I don’t get. This is supposed to be a reboot of the 2007 film starring Timothy Olyphant, which also sucked, so you’d think Fox is trying to start fresh. Why then would you bring back the 2007 film’s writer Skip Woods (whose flawless track record also includes X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The A-Team, A Good Day to Die Hard and Sabotage) to pen the reboot?

I mean, imagine if Warner Bros. brought back Joel Schumacher to direct Batman Begins.

I know… Totally would’ve been a better film.

Of course, I’m not gonna harp on the writing ’cause who the hell goes to a Hitman film for the writing? Who the hell goes to any video game film for the writing? I can hear it now: “Typically cynical reviewers. Can’t shut their brains off and just enjoy this as the fun action flick as it is.” Well, it’d be easy for viewers to shut their brain off if this movie wasn’t already doing a pretty good job at shutting their eyes. Even as a straight-up action film, Hitman is a failure. It’s void of colorful characters (the character depth of all character depths isn’t needed by any means, but characters worth rooting for would be nice), any sense of peril is non-existent, the poorly-rendered CGI is sometimes painfully obvious, and there simply isn’t enough style and action to make up for the number of times the film stops whatever momentum it may have in brakes-slamming fashion whenever it feels like taking a break to get deep over its themes of humanity and man playing God. Any attempts to do so, which are spelled out with hokey, heavy-handed dialogue, ring hallow.

To newbie Polish filmmaker Aleksander Bach’s credit, the film contains two effective setpieces – the first being Hannah Ware’s Katia having to strategize her way out of an airport without getting caught by the security cameras, and the second a jet factory fight between Friend and Quinto (the only action sequence that shows any sign of life). Beyond that, though, most everything about this film screams indistinguishable and lackadaisical. It has a sleek look courtesy of cinematographer Ottar Gudnason, but overall it’s nothing more than a glossy cover meant to hide all of the film’s soullessness.

A film like John Wick, which isn’t based on a video game but easily could be, is a perfect example of how to do a purely action-oriented film like this right. The Keanu Reeves action/thriller has just enough backstory, character, narrative and clear-cut motive to carry itself from beginning to end, and wisely never tries to overachieve in those areas. It understands its limits as a film and knows its lifeblood is in the fantastic style and dazzlingly shot action sequences that first-time directors and long-time stunt choreographers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (whose skills are employed and put to waste in this film) brought to the table.

Hey, in the end, if it means anything, and it would have to take a fully loaded gun pointed at my head to coerce a decision out of me, I would probably take Hitman: Agent 47 over Fantastic Four.

There ya go, Fox. You have my permission to use that as a blurb for your eventual DVD/Blu-ray release.

You’d think with such a low bar not only set by its predecessor, but also by video game films in general and by the month of August, which is mostly a tumbleweed in the desert’s worth of excitement for film, that Hitman: Agent 47 could skate its way to being a good time at the movies. However, the film eschews fun, edge of your seat action for hallow thrills, half-assed heady themes and pointless product placement. The hurdle it faced couldn’t have been any more easier for it to clear, but it still finds a way somehow to trip over it horribly.

Movie Rating:

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I’m originally from the Orlando-Sanford area in Florida. Moved up to Michigan as a kid and to this day, as Stevie Ray Vaughan once said, “Couldn’t stand the weather.”